This paper presents a hypothetical strategic plan for a small public library. This library serves the community of approximately 20.000 people. At this point, its collection comprises 40.000 books and periodicals. This institution has recently encountered with such problem as the decrease in the number of visitors which subsequently can be explained by shortage of resources and in some cases poor customer service.
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I was responsible for the development of the strategies that can help this organization cope with current problems. From the very outset, I realized that it was hardly possible to make any valuable recommendations without involving the employees of the library and readers into decision-making (Hayes, 2001, p 13).
My original premise was that every stakeholder has a right to contribute to this project, and my task was to ensure that none of them is excluded from decision-making process. This is the key issue that I had to take into consideration prior to starting the development of the strategic plan.
The steps taken by the committee
First of all, a committee was formed; its major objective was to analyze the origins of the difficulties, faced by this library and propose solutions that can improve the work of this library. This committee included four members: the library director, two assistants and one representative of the library board. While developing the plan, the committee strongly relied on partnership with the employees of this library.
We have interviewed every librarian of the organization and asked him/her for recommendations. Apart from that, the committee conducted a satisfaction survey among the readers who regularly visit this library. While interviewing the readers, we focused on such criteria as richness of the library collection, the use of information technologies, helpfulness of the employees, time management of the organization.
In this way, we tried to identify the areas which needed improvement. Additionally, while interviewing these people, we asked them about those expectation which they usually set for a library. It was of crucial importance to us to assume the customers’ standpoint since their major stakeholders of this organization.
This approach has greatly helped us, since we were able to identify those areas, requiring improvement. Without their recommendations this plan would have never come into existence.
Furthermore, the committee research already-existing literature about the problems. In particular, we focused on those approaches adopted by small and midsize libraries in order to enrich collections and provide a better quality of services to the readers. Many books and articles have proved quite beneficial for our purposes.
The research which has been undertaken by the committee indicates that many public libraries have to struggle with budget limitations, but they can be overcome. In part, this goal can be achieved through active cooperation with other libraries, publishing houses and charity organization. Secondly, the main reason why many people are dissatisfied with the quality of library’s services is lack of self-sufficiency.
One has to speak about ineffective space and time management (Gothberg, 1991, p 350). For example, very often the readers are not allowed to check out books on their own, they have to wait several minutes until the librarian finds it. This process becomes very time-consuming especially if there are many visitors.
The research of academic service is useful to that extent that it enabled the committee to learn about the best practices used by the libraries within a relatively short time.
Judging from my personal observations and from the results of the survey, I may argue that these problems are typical of this library as well. These examples immediately attract attention and in part they prove that financial constraints are not the only cause of library’s difficulties.
These findings prompted the committee to the conclusion it is necessary to implement certain organizational changes. These changes should touch upon performance assessment and workplace relations.
For many public organizations this transformation is very difficult; however, academic literature indicates that small libraries can overcome these possible through changes in organizational structure and giving more autonomy to the readers (Park, 2005, p 168).
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Thus, the plan proposed by the committee is based on the premise that the problems of this library should not be explained only by budget limitations. Overall, we are greatly indebted to every person who helped us with the development of this plan. Without active participation of employees, readers and library board we would not have been able to map out this strategic plan.
Mission and Goals
The mission of this library is to offer adequate resources and services that would support learning and research needs of the community (The University of Chicago Library, 2010, unpaged). It is possible to single out several goals and objectives which are quite consistent with this mission:
Goal 1. To maintain a well-organized and balance library collection that contains only high-quality books and periodicals.
Goal 2. To promote the quality of library services and improve the skills of the library personnel.
Goal 3. To improve economic performance of the library and make it less dependent on governmental funding.
These are the key goals that this organization must attain. For each of these goals, one can set at least two objective which are more specific and tangible. Furthermore, it is vital to explain how each of these objectives can be attained.
The first objective is to establish long-term partnership with other libraries and organizations that can share resources with this organization. We can suggest several steps that one should take. 1) The most important step is to join both local and non-local library consortia, which are formal associations of libraries. These consortiums promote book and resource sharing.
For instance, it will be possible to obtain either digital or hard copies of books. 2) Secondly, this institution should establish an interlibrary loan service, for example, this library can borrow books or periodical from another library in order to scan or photocopy the materials.
In this way, they will be able to reduce the cost of procuring new books, and this particularly important for libraries that have to struggle with budget limitations. 3) The third step is to establish long-term partnership with publishing houses.
Some of these companies attach great importance to charity and they frequently donate books to the libraries. Each of these action steps is important since this library has to struggle with budgetary limitations and one has to use strategies of reducing or at least minimizing costs.
The second objectively is to make full use of information technologies that are available to the library. We can propose at least three strategies that may help the library in accomplishing this objective.
- First, this organization should purchase subscription to various online libraries and databases, such as Questia, SAGE, Jstor, etc (Repman & Dickinson, 2007, p 186). In this way, we will be able to expand library collection (Sutton, 1995, p 126).
- Additionally, this library should develop official website that would make the resources of the library more available and more affordable to the subscribers of this library.
- Lastly, it is necessary to start digitizing the books and periodicals which the library has its disposal. This will greatly increase the accessibility of books and periodicals to the readers.
Thirdly, it is necessary to update library collection in different subject areas.
- One of the most important steps is to continuously review the new books and articles published by the leading publishing houses.
- The second step is to establish contacts with wholesale book shops that provide discounts to the regular customers and especially to libraries. Due to financial constraints, the library management has to minimize costs of procuring new books. At this stage, it is quite possible to argue that without effective cost management the strategic plan will not yield expected results.
It is possible to single out several objectives which are quite consistent with the second goal. The first objective is to improve time and space management in this library.
The most important step is to create an electronic library catalogue so that readers could search for a necessary publication by entering either the name of the author or the title of a book or article (Hobrock, 1992, p 34). This strategy will allow both readers and librarians to reduce the amount of time needed for the search of a book.
The second step is to install self-check-out units so that readers could return books and articles more quickly. This strategy will greatly improve time management in this organization and make it more attractive for the readers.
The second objective is to continuously improve the skills of the employees.
For this purpose it is first necessary to provide training to the employees; special attention should be paid to their knowledge of the library collection and ability to use information technologies, especially the electronic library catalogue (Usherwood, 2007, p 670). It is vital that the management of this organization regularly conducts assessment of the employee’s skills; it should be done at least two times a year.
2Another strategy that would help the library is to organize seminars with employees of other librarians. Such activities can help librarians share their experience with another; in this way they will be able to learn more about the best practices used in modern libraries (Stuart & Moran, 2007).
As it has been said before, the third goal is to improve economic performance of the library. In this case the most first and important objective is to allow readers to buy food and drinks at the library. One should remember that that many people, who visit libraries, may stay for a very long time, and the opportunity to purchase food and drinks is very important for them.
On the one hand, this policy can greatly increase the quality of libraries services and many organizations have already adopted this strategy (Park, 2005, p 167). There are two steps that we need to take in order to achieve this objective:
- First, it is necessary to procure a vending machine that will be used by the visitors.
- Secondly, the library management should find a suitable location for this vending machine. Although, this step appears to be self-evident, this task can prove very challenging because it will be necessary to sufficient room for many visitors.
The second objective is to provide readers with an opportunity to purchase books at the library. We can single out two action steps that will support this objective.
- At the beginning the librarians should compile a list of those books which are most frequently requested by the readers. In this way, they will be able to learn what kind of books will enjoy demand among the customers.
- The next step is to find extra space for this small bookshop and determine which of the employees will be responsible for running it. Thus, the steps that we have identified in this section are crucial for successful implementation of the plan. Probably, in the future some extra steps will be added.
Timelines for the implementation of the plan
At this stage, we should work out the schedule for the implementation of this strategy. It can be presented in the following way:
- Join both local and non-local library consortia (April 4th – April 14)
- Establish an interlibrary loan service (April 5th – April 25th)
- Establish partnership with publishing houses (April 6th– May 2nd)
- Obtain subscriptions for online databases (April 6- April 8th)
- Develop the library’s official website (April 6- June 1st)
- Digitizing books and periodicals (April 8th )
- Continuously review the new books and articles published by the leading publishing houses (April 4th)
- Establish contacts with wholesale book shops (April 7th – May 2nd)
- Create an electronic library catalogue (April 10th –September 1st)
- To install-self-check-out units (April 5th – April 11th)
- Provide training to the employees (May 1st– June 1st)
- Organize seminars with employees of other librarians (May 15th)
- Procure a vending machine and find suitable location for it (May 2nd May 15th)
- Compile a list of the most requested books (April 4th– April 20th).
It should be noted that the majority of action steps have start dates and end dates. However, some of the activities will take a very long time, for instance, digitization of books, and we have not specified the end date. Furthermore, the library will need to attract outside professionals for the development of official website and electronic catalogue.
Reflections about group work
This project has demonstrated to me the importance of teamwork. On the whole, this strategic plan could not have been developed without active assistance of employees, library board members, and certainly readers. There are several aspects of group work which greatly appeal to me; one of them is brainstorming and ability to receive critical evaluation of one’s thought and ideas.
The committee held many meetings and we meticulously discussed every objective and every step that are now included in this strategic plan. The members of the committees were willing to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of every possible policy.
This approach seems to be most productive since a group of people, especially if they are competent enough, can better identify the potential flaws of the plan, even if at first glance it seems impeccable.
The most important thing is that a library director is able to accept criticism, if this criticism contributes to overall success of the project. More importantly, it is vital that this person can admit his/her mistakes; otherwise team work will eventually become pointless.
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Hayes. R. (2001) Models for library management, decision-making, and planning. London: Emerald Group Publishing.
Hobrock. B. (1992). Library management in the information technology environment-: issues, policies, and practice for administrators. NY: Routledge.
Park. C. (2005). Harris County Public Library: creating a design paradigm for twenty- first century libraries. The Bottom Line. 18 (4). p 167-174.
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Usherwood. R. C. (2007). Professional values in a bureaucratic structure. Library Review pp 666-673.